S. Korea's vice defense minister leaves for Egypt

Park braces for tough questioning on bribery

kh close

 

Published : 2017-03-20 17:39
Updated : 2017-03-20 19:22

Former President Park Geun-hye will deliver a message in public before undergoing questioning by state investigators Tuesday, addressing the public directly for the first time since her impeachment.

Former President Park Geun-hye (Yonhap)

“Former President Park has prepared a message, which she will deliver on her way to the prosecutors’ office,” her lawyer Sohn Beom-kyu told reporters Monday, claiming to have no further knowledge of the content of the message.

Park, the nation’s first elected leader to be ousted upon impeachment, is to attend prosecutorial questioning at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Tuesday morning.

While Park’s aides kept quiet over the expelled president’s current status or strategy in responding to prosecutors’ questions, observers speculate she would once again deny all charges, especially the bribery charge related to conglomerates.

The last time that Park was exposed to public view, though in a confined environment, was in her surprise New Year’s Day press talk, in which she claimed to have been “totally framed.”

In her final hearing statement of the Constitutional Court’s impeachment trial, which her lawyer read in proxy, Park reiterated her stance that none of the charges are true.

Expecting repeated denials from the former president, prosecutors have been focusing on investigating the conglomerates allegedly connected to Park and her confidante Choi Soon-sil.

The special investigation headquarters Sunday summoned Jang Sun-wook, head of Lotte Duty Free, on charges of offering bribes to Choi and Park in exchange for benefits in obtaining a license in the duty-free shop business.

The team also earlier called in executive officials of SK Group, the nation’s third-largest conglomerate, for allegedly providing kickbacks so as to have Chairman Chey Tae-won pardoned from his jail term due to embezzlement.

The prosecutors’ goal is to successfully prove the compensatory relation between the conglomerates and the former president, so as to indict -- and possibly arrest -- Park on bribery charges.

The dilemma for Park’s aides, on the other hand, is that Park has mostly refrained from speaking in public ever since the influence-peddling scandal broke out late last year.

Even during her three public addresses and surprise press interview, Park’s way of speech and logic fell short of answering the allegations raised against her -- most of which will resurface at the prosecutorial questioning.

“We are investing efforts in preparing (Park) for the expected questions, as well as for an outbreak of situations,” Yoo Young-ha, a key member of Park’s legal representative team, said earlier.

In an apparent move to ramp up last-minute preparations and strategy meetings, Yoo was seen visiting Park’s house early on Monday morning, following an eight-hour visit the previous day.

Although Yoo refused to answer reporters’ questions, her other lawyer Sohn explained to reporters earlier that “Yoo is preparing for detailed hearings, while other lawyers are focusing more on the big picture.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)